A few of my Coffee Talk readers have asked why I deal with grammatical issues. They have said that they like the theological, biblical, and philosophical Coffee Talks, but they do not see the importance of the "grammar talks."
Well, first let me say that my students were my original audience for the Coffee Talks. That being the case, I intended to discuss with them many things from alpha to omega. As I look back over my many years of classroom experience, from time to time my professors would talk about things having to do with world politics, the cost of milk, sanitation workers, theology, cars, grammar, recent movies, and the list goes on and on. A student might bring up a topic that he or she was interested in that had nothing to do with the class topic, and off we went into a conversation about that topic.
So, I have used this forum to simply discuss various things with my students, and those readers who are "sitting in on the class," are welcome guests. But, the topic of grammar has always been one of the things that I have discussed with my students in real-time class settings. So likewise, in this "virtual class" I attempt to discuss various things that I think will help them with their over all education, so that they have a more rounded learning experience.
With that in mind, today's CT is grammatically driven.
I remember having a frustrating conversation with two college roommates in my first year of college. One of my roommates asked me, "Can you borrow me five dollars?" I hesitated because I wanted him to realize what he had just asked. He, apparently thought I had not heard him so he asked again, "Can you borrow me five bucks?"
I told him that while I had five dollars that I could loan to him, I did not know how I could grammatically "borrow him" five bucks. I thought that he would see his mistake, laugh and then say, "Oh, I mean, will you loan me five dollars" or, "May I borrow five dollars." Instead he said, "What are you talking about?"
I then told him that one does not borrow to a person, he loans it to him. Furthermore, when asking for it, the receiver is to say, "Will you loan to me," not "Will you borrow to me."
He looked puzzled and finally said, "I think you're wrong. In your case, you could never use the word borrow at all."
I said, "Of course you could, when the borrower is the subject. In other words, you would say, 'May I borrow five dollars.'"
He didn't get it, and he said, "Then the word 'loan' is about you the giver, and the word 'borrow' is about me the receiver, so, I was right, 'Can you borrow me five bucks,' is correct."
At about this time our other roommate walked into the dorm room, and we explained to him our present grammatical situation. After hearing both of us explain it, he said, Mel's right, it is "Can you borrow me five bucks." The other roommate then said, "Give up Walston; it's two against one."
By this time I was becoming more frustrated, and so I said, "Hold on. Let's see what Mister Webster has to say." So, I pulled out my 10-pound dictionary and together we hovered over the words borrow and loan and lend. After showing them that borrow was used with the borrower as the subject, and that the word "loan," in this instance, as the direct object, I triumphantly closed the massive dictionary and said, "So there. Webster agrees with me."
My two roommates looked at each other, and then one of them said, "So what? Now it's just two against two."
Completely frustrated, I pulled five dollars from my pocket and handed it to my roommate and said, "Here, now go away and stop bothering me."
I have since come to learn that in some areas of the country (apparently not where I grew up) it is common (but not correct) to substitute "borrow" for "loan" or "lend." In some quarters, you might hear someone say something like "Borrow me your knife Grady."
However, in what is referred to as "standard English," the person providing an item loans it, while the person receiving it borrows it.
So, if you'd like to borrow five dollars from me, be sure to use the correct grammar, and even then, do not expect a positive response.
The words bring and take are sometimes confused as well. Not only have I heard this from people I know, but I have also heard this on TV and in movies. The word "bring" is used in place of the word "take." Big deal? No, not really, if you don't mind people thinking you don't know any better.
The bring/take words are determined by view point. When viewing the movement of something from the point of arrival, you should use the word "bring." So, you'd say, "When you come to class, please bring a number-two pencil."
But, when you view it from the point of departure, you should use the word "take." So, you'd say, "When you go to class, take a number-two pencil."
Entitled and Titled
Have you ever heard the phrase, "He has a sense of entitlement"? Or, someone says, "I'm entitled." In this sense, the word "entitled" means to furnish with a right or claim to something. The woman told the judge, "I'm entitled to 50% of my husband's earnings."
Now, have you ever heard of a title? What is a title? Well, it is an identifying name given to a book, play, film, musical composition, or book chapter. So . . .
Entitled = a right or claim to something
Title = A name given to a book
Do you see the difference?
Sometimes people will say, The book is entitled Great Coffee Talks. Others, like me, will say, The book is titled Great Coffee Talks. (By the way, book titles do not have quotation marks around them. They are either italicized or underlined. Chapter titles within books are in quotes.)
Now, let me hasten to add that the word "entitled" is sometimes legitimately used to mean "title." Thus, it is not entirely wrong to say, "The book is entitled Great Coffee Talks." However, it is not precise academic writing to do so. After all, you can also say, "I ain't got no money," to mean, "I don't have any money," but you would not want to write that way in your academic papers.
So, in standard academic writing, people should make a separation between the words entitled and titled. Thus, while the wife may be entitled to 50% of her husband's earning, the book is not entitled; it is titled.
I was amused by one person's appeal to Chaucer on this topic. He stated that Chaucer (who was a great English poet), once used the word "entitled" to refer to a book's title; therefore, so the man argued, it must be ok.
While it is "ok" (but not completely accurate) to use the word "entitled" to mean "titled," I doubt that an appeal to Chaucer makes the case.
Can you say "semantic anachronism"? I knew you could. Think of it. Are we really supposed to be getting our 2002 American English usage from an English poet of Middle English Literature who lived in the 14th century? I think not. Just look at Middle English and see if you can figure out what's being said. Just a small portion of one of Chaucer's poems will make my point:
The Franklin's Portrait
A frankeleyn was in his compaignye.
Whit was his berd as is the dayesye;
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn;
To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
Seint julian he was in his contree.
Geoffrey Chaucer (ca.1343-1400)
Certainly English has changed a bit, no? But we need not go back 600 years to see how language changes. Just 30 years ago as my family enjoyed Christmas, we would gather around the piano and sing, "Don we now our gay apparel" from the Christmas carol, "Deck the Hall."
Deck tha hall with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la la la la la,
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
In closing: I wonder, will you loan me ten dollars so I can buy the book titled Great Coffee Talks, so I can take it to class?
Send comments about this, or any, Coffee Talk to Rick Walston at: CES - @ - ColumbiaSeminary.edu
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